Retrieve accidentally deleted footnotes and comments

Hi there,

I selected all the comments and footnotes in my 200 page document to make sure they were all formatted in the same way. In the process I accidentally pressed the – button which deleted all of them. I was not able to retrieve them with the Edit-Undo or ctrl+z action. Anyone know what I could do? I can’t even find in the Scrivener folder how they are saved, so I haven’t been able to recover them from my backup.

Scrivener’s automatic backups can be found by going to Scrivener → Preferences → Backups, and opening the backup folder in Finder. That would be the easiest solution.

Second best would be to use a Time Machine backup from before the deletion took place, assuming you have one.

To be clear, you’ll want to revert the entire project to an earlier version, not try to extract just the footnotes.

Hi, I just want to extract the footnotes from the back up. Is that possible? I can access my full back up from last Friday but have worked extensively on the document since. Since Scrivener saves automatically, I cannot go back to my current project one hour ago.

That is to say, the only thing I want to change in my current version of the project is retrieve the footnotes and comments I accidentally deleted.

That’s odd that you weren’t able to undo; even across a Scrivenings session, it should’ve been possible to have focus in the inspector comments area or the editor and undo the deletion of the batch with Cmd-Z or the menu. Undo does depend on the focus area, though, so if you’d accidentally clicked into the other split editor or the binder, for instance, the undo command for the comments wouldn’t have been available.

For the restoration, there’s not a way to just take a particular file of “all comments” from the backup and dump it into the project since there’d be no way for Scrivener to know where to attach the comments in the text. That information is stored in the document file itself and would have been removed as part of deleting the comments. To extract just the comments, you’ll need to have the two versions of each document open side by side and copy the comments individually to the correct location in the newer version.

The good news is you can simplify and speed this up a bit by using File ▸ Import ▸ Scrivener Project to merge the backup copy and the current copy.* This will give you a list (as a Collection) of all documents that were different between the two copies—i.e. any documents that had lost their comments or otherwise been edited since the backup—and will add the older (backup) version of the document as a snapshot for any of these documents with conflicts.

The benefit here is that you won’t have to try to remember exactly which documents had comments or were edited; you’ll have the list of everything different, and you’ll be able to go through that and use the snapshot comparison tool to compare each altered document with its “Project Merge” snapshot in the inspector to find the changes.

  1. If the only changes are that the inspector comments were lost, you can simply roll back to the snapshot state (the backup version).
  2. If there are only a few text changes and many comments to restore, you might also choose to roll back to the commented version, taking a snapshot of the newer edited version, and then just redo those few edits in the restored copy. You can use copy and paste from the snapshot as well.
  3. If there are more edits in the new version, you can simply copy over the comments by loading the snapshot in the split editor (drag and drop it to the editor header), viewing its comments in the inspector, and then dragging the comment from the inspector onto the proper text in the newer copy of the document in the other split. You can drag and drop a comment onto selected text to attach the comment to the whole selection.
    • For this, I find it helpful to lock the inspector to the editor showing the snapshot, so that it doesn’t keep switching to the other editor’s metadata while I’m dragging and dropping comments. To do that, focus the snapshot editor, Ctrl-click on the editor header, and choose Lock Inspector to Editor. A little circled “i” icon will appear in the right of the header; click that to disable the lock when you’ve finished.
  4. If the changes are just edits in documents that you don’t need to fix (no lost comments), you don’t need to do anything. It just now has a snapshot of an older state, which you can keep or delete as you like.

As you go through and restore each document to have the latest edits and the comments, you can remove it from the collection. Thus you’ll have a clear “to-do” list of what still needs to be tidied.

* I would suggest making a backup of your current version also before doing the import and merge, and make sure it won’t replace your older backup that you need to restore.


To @MimeticMouton’s excellent advice, I would just add that if your most recent backup is a week old, this would be a good time to check your backup settings.

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Thank you, I have fixed it by hand now luckily! Good suggestion of using the snapshot editor.

Once I realised I deleted them I did press cmd+z several times and saw in the edit menu that it had worked because there it showed previous edits to undo. But the comments and footnotes did not return in the inspector. And you are right, once I was out of the focus area, it was impossible to try further. Strange, though, that Cmd-Z did not work for me.

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